Defending champions New Zealand will take huge confidence into the semi-finals of the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship after an 8-0 win over Samoa this afternoon took them through group play with a perfect record.
Leon Birnie’s side had begun their qualifying campaign for the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup with a pair of comprehensive victories – both over Francophone opposition in Tahiti and New Caledonia – and were seeking something similar at a muggy J.S. Blatter Football Complex in Apia against the hosts.
Although frustrated for the opening half hour by a determined and well-organised Samoa, the Kiwis eventually managed to achieve another high-scoring win, thanks largely to a six-goal effort in the second half. Kelli Brown – who had helped herself to seven goals first up against Tahiti – took her tally for the tournament to 11 with another hat-trick while Jayda Stewart and Maggie Jenkins both struck twice.
With drinks breaks again being required in the stifling heat, Birnie continued his policy of rotating his squad by making six changes to the side that defeated New Caledonia as Brown, Stewart, Amy Waters, Arabella Maynard, Macey Fraser and Gabrielle Rennie all came into the starting line-up. Birnie also elected to keep sharing the captain’s armband around with Jenkins being given the honour today.
The newcomers would all have been keen to make a real impact after not playing 90 minutes in the previous match but were met with an impenetrable wall early on. It took until after the first drinks break for New Zealand to finally break through and there was no surprise in the identity of the scorer, Brown being played in by an outstanding reverse ball from Stewart and smashing an unstoppable effort into the near top corner on 36 minutes.
Stewart went from provider to scorer on the stroke of half-time, heading a corner past Samoa goalkeeper Meripa Seumanutafa to give the favourites a 2-0 lead at the break.
Having done so well to contain New Zealand in the first spell, Samoa could not maintain the resolute nature of their performance in the second. Skipper Jenkins had her country’s third in the 56th minute after being presented with a simple finish and she double her tally a few moments later with a low drive. Stewart had a hand in all four goals and that trend continued on 73 minutes when she again showed outstanding ability in the air to head in a corner.
Fraser joined the net-finding fun in stunning fashion soon after, hitting a powerful shot from well outside the box past Seumanutafa for her first goal of the tournament. Brown then decided having only one strike to her name was not satisfying enough and set about making it a hat-trick with two late strikes, the first crashing in off the underside of the cross bar before the scoring was wrapped up with a sumptuous run and dink over Seumanutafa.
“It was good to get goals in the back of the net and three points but our execution wasn’t quite on in periods,” Birnie admitted.
“We’re at the beginning stages of our campaign and are still introducing new concepts and areas we’re trying to work on. At the moment it’s all around intent and trying to do things so if the execution isn’t quite there we can accept that. I think that’s a general theme that’s gone through these first three games.”
New Zealand will now look to continue their march towards glory and a place in the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup with a semi-final showdown against Cook Islands on Tuesday.
New Zealand 8 (Kelli Brown 36’, 83’, 90’, Jayda Stewart 45’, 73’, Maggie Jenkins 56’, 58’, Macey Fraser 82’)
New Zealand: 13. Rylee Godbold (GK), 3. Aneka Mittendorff (4. Hannah Mackay-Wright 43’), 5. Amy Waters (2. Shannon Trebes 63’), 7. Kelli Brown, 10. Maggie Jenkins (c), 11. Arabella Maynard, 12. Macey Fraser, 14. Mackenzie Barry, 15. Gabrielle Rennie (18. Britney Cunningham-Lee 46’), 16. Jayda Stewart, 17. Aniela Jensen
Substitutes not used: 1. Georgia Candy (GK), 6. Grace Wisnewski, 8. Maya Hahn, 9. Margot Ramsay
Coach: Leon Birnie